Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Heaven-Sent Lift

I miss you. 

I miss writing on this blog. 

I wish I could just sit down every day and talk about all the things I am learning, and all the funny things that are happening, and all of the exciting activities that are totally out of my comfort zone, but for which I am very grateful.

But tonight I just want to record a simple idea that has brought me more strength in the last two days then I had hoped to receive.

I woke up yesterday morning with five or six heavy things weighing on my mind, and because it was early, and no one else was awake, I went quietly downstairs and sat cross-legged on the carpet in front of our little gas fireplace to have my personal time with God.

I read this talkand this particular line jumped out at me:

"Heaven-sent lift will be found for heaven-sent duties."

All of a sudden, I looked at my list of worries I had recorded in my journal and realized that every single one of them was heaven sent.

I think you can relate....

Everything involving my family, my work at Power of Moms, or my interactions with God's children is work I am doing only because I want to serve my King.

I know many of you feel likewise.

And so I realized I didn't need to worry.

Instead, I simply needed to ask Him to send the help that He has promised.

Well, the help came--that "lift" I had hoped for.

It came with more power and peace and beauty than I feel I deserved. 

My heart has been SO calm, and the past couple of days have felt incredibly empowering.

As I look back, I can pinpoint the start of this miracle to the moment I read that promise from above.

So I wanted to take just a moment to share it with you. And I want to make sure you know that for all of your heaven-sent duties, heaven-sent lift WILL come...if you just ask. 

With Love, 
April


Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Alia's Room Tour!

Merry Christmas week, everyone!  Alia is home from school on a break, and so she is guest-posting for me.  :)  Hope you are all doing well.

xoxoxo

_____________________

Hi everyone!  This is Alia, April's daughter, and today I am going to share how I decorated my room on a budget (and mostly by myself).  I have received a lot of questions about my room decorations, and I thought that I could answer most of them in a blog post.  For the most part, I spent my own money on the things in my room (a few things were Christmas/birthday gifts).

I got my own room when I was 12, and for two whole years, I had zero decorations.  I didn't really care about them too much, and I rarely spent time in my room.  Now that I am 14 (almost 15), I spend more time in my room for homework, craft projects, and other things that I'm working on.  I really wanted my room to be a space that I loved, and that's just what it's become.

The first step was painting. I didn't like all the work that went into painting the walls, so I only painted one wall a color.  One wall is teal and all of the other walls are white.  (I did need my parents' help with this).


This is what you see when you first walk into my room.  I love art and color, so my room is full of it.  My comforter is from Target (HERE), and the matching pillow cases were sold separately (HERE). I really like these colors, and *bonus* it's reversible!  It can also be plain yellow, but for now, I like the pattern.

My bed is really tall because of these risers. I don't have closet space for everything in my room, so it's kept under my bed.  I probably have three rows of boxes plus 4 boxes of fabric.  My bed frame was pretty cheap--it's a Universal Bed Frame (HERE), and it works for every size bed.  We got the risers HERE.
And now for the pillows on my bed.  I have the two from Target and lots of homemade ones.  This is just a pillow from the craft/sewing store.  You're supposed to make a cover for it, but I left it plain and painted it. I didn't have any fabric paint on hand--just acrylic, but it never washes out of fabrics, so I think it works.  :)


This is the back of one of my pillows. I made two of these out of some fabric and batting.  I just made a rectangle, sewed it together, and added batting.  It probably took an hour for two matching pillows.  I love making these, because they are so simple and easy, and you can use any kind of fabric that you want.  (Mine are made of a not-too-sparkly gray material).


This is probably my favorite wall in my room.  It started off with one tiny painting, and I've been adding to it for about a year.  I got the canvases as a Christmas present, and I think they were on sale at Michaels.  I got some of the picture frames from Walmart (2 for $2), and they had lots of different sizes. Also, I use painter's tape to hang all the papers up (so that my paint won't get damaged). One thing that you should probably know about me is that I'll see something on Instagram or Pinterest, and I'll be able to recreate it.  Most of the things on my walls are things that I've seen somewhere else. 

I saw this painting HERE, and I really liked how it looked.  I printed out a hexagon, traced it, and painted it!  Super simple and easy.


My younger sister helped me with this painting.  She found it on Pinterest and drew it on a canvas, and then I painted it.  She made one for her room with different colors and with a different animal.


This part of my wall has things from all over the place.  The silhouette is one that I found online, traced onto cardboard, painted, and cut out.  The hand is from a project in my art class.  We just traced our hand on construction paper, and decorated it with henna designs.  The 'A' is from Michaels, and it started out as a plain wooden letter, but I spray-painted it yellow.  The drawing is from my friend Lia (You can read more about Lia HERE).  Anyways, I really liked this drawing, so I put it in one of the inexpensive frames from Walmart. The giraffe was just an image that I found online (HERE).

I've seen this painting all over the Internet, and I decided to make one for myself.  I made it with melted crayons, so that's why it looks a little bit messy.


I just went to the 'quotes' section on Pinterest, and I found all of these things.  I printed them out, and the washi tape at the top is just for decoration (the tape is super weak, and it can't hold anything up).


More quotes from Pinterest, and I painted a C.S. Lewis quote onto a canvas. (That was actually my very first painting that went up on my wall).


I used watercolors for the two paintings at the top (my favorite water colors ever HERE).  I used permanent marker on canvas for the feather.  I just looked at a picture online, and I made my own version of it.  It took about an hour, but I think it was worth it!

And now for the things above my bed.  I used yarn and felt to make the triangles that are hanging above my bed (I also have a matching one above my door).  I just cut a bunch of triangles out, and hot glued them to yarn. It was super easy.  I made a different one for my grandparents, but it was made of Christmas colored hexagons.  I used 5 square canvases for the paintings above my bed.  (More on them below).


Here are a couple of the paintings.  I sketched them in pencil, and then I painted them.  (More info about the drawings below).

 

I used these three drawing books for the paintings (above), and in a different part of my room (getting to that in a minute :) These books make drawing SO simple, especially for kids.  I got these as a Christmas present a year ago. The author is Sachiko Umoto, and these are the books I like best. I seriously recommend getting these for your children.  I've never found a set of art books that I liked this much!

Let's Draw Happy People
Let's Draw Cute Animals
Let's Draw Plants and Small Creatures


This is the other side of my room.  :) I'll explain more below.

 

I made paper 'pinwheels' for my door, and they are so easy. You take a square paper, and make 4 cuts from each corner to the middle, but you don't cut it apart.  You fold every other point (there will be 8) into the middle, and then you can glue and tape them together however you like.


These are my little cubbies, and they hold everything.  For example, I keep paint, scrapbook supplies, clay, stamps, ink pads, school supplies, and curling irons/hair stuff in all of the buckets. I got the cubbies from Home Depot (HERE). I put the cubbies together myself, and the instruction were pretty easy.  This is one of the things that I spent my own money on.  It was on sale, so I got a great deal.  The yellow and teal boxes were extra, and I also spent my money on those. (HERE).


This is just an example of what is in one of my drawers.  I like having my things stored in these because I don't need to have these perfectly organized and out in the open.


Here's what's on top of my cubbies.  I got this clock for Christmas when I was 10 or 11, and I really love it, but it was discontinued.  You can find it on Amazon, but they are selling it for $200+ and I got mine for $40.  One of the best purchases I have ever made is this candle warmer.  I love candles and all of the different scents, but it's so dangerous to have candles in our rooms.  I got this one at Target, and I love it. (More about it below).


This is the candle warmer,  and these are a few of the scents that I have.  Walmart has them for $2-3, and Target has them for $3-4, but you can find them on sale most times.  I bought the candle warmer for $10 on sale, and this one is similar, but it's a bit more expensive (HERE).


This is what's on top of my cubbies.  I have an art project giraffe/bug, a bunch of books and journals, and paintings!  I found these on Pinterest, and I love having them in my room. The four square paintings are made of some really thin wood that I found at Home Depot, and I attached little hanging brackets to the back of them. 


Right next to my cubbies, I have a desk/work area.  I'm using this space all the time, so it's super important for me to keep my desk clean. The shelves are just pieces of white wood and shelf supports/brackets from Home Depot. The desk is from Target, but I can't find the exact link.  I helped pay for half of the desk, since it was kind of expensive (not more than $100 though.) My parents helped to put the desk together because it was kind of complicated.


I got this teal chair from Target too, and it was about $20.  I have a little plant too (it's one of the plants that doesn't die easily).  I'm kind of obsessed with Easter Island (I'm going there one day!), and I have a little painting of one of the statues.  I also have my cutting mat handy (from the craft store), because I'm always using it!


This is the wall I was talking about earlier, the one that I used the art books for.  My three younger siblings helped to draw a ton of animals, plants, and people, and I used them on my wall. I used my water colors to fill them in, and I love all the colors!

 Here are a couple close-up pictures of all the drawings:


 I totally skipped over my shelves...I'll talk about them now! I have lots of little print-outs.  One of my favorites says 'Painting is my happy place' and you can print your own out HERE! :) I also have this little colorful container to hold my chapsticks (container from Target..Only a couple of dollars). 


Then I have an 'Up' section of the shelf. It is my favorite movie, so I printed out a few pictures, and I made printable 3D characters! (More info below).

Disney's website has 3D characters from pretty much every movie(from princesses to Toy Story, Cars, Star Wars, etc..), and they were pretty easy to put together.  Little kids might need some help following the directions. Also, I don't recommend using tape/craft glue, because they fall apart too easily. If you use a hot glue gun, they stay together and dry quickly.  Find them HERE. You can actually just search 'papercraft' in the search bar, and every 3D printable will pop up.  :)

 The final thing on my shelf is a small jewelry hanger.  It keeps my necklaces so organized, and it's a cute little tree! Similar one HERE. I think that adding little personal touches like the 3D printables or art projects not only save you money (most are handmade or very low cost), they help your room to look creative and cute!

Well, if you've made it all the way through, thanks for reading! I have loved adding to my room over the past couple of years, and for the most part, I was responsible for paying for the things that I wanted in my room. All the hard work was worth it, and I learned so many skills along the way! (From putting cubbies together to learning how to paint new things).

________________________

Hope you enjoyed this tour of Alia's room!  (She makes me smile...I am not even HALF that creative.)

Good luck with your own decorations, and please feel free to leave comments.  Alia would be happy to answer any questions.  :)

With Love,
April

Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Christmas I Didn't Know I'd Have

My mom started receiving hospice care in May.

Her Alzheimer's had progressed to the point that she needed to be in bed full time, so her doctor signed the form allowing for extra nurses to come in and tend to her at home.

The prognosis? Approximately six months to live.

I remember when I heard the news. I started counting on my fingers, "June, July, August, September, October, November."

Then it hit me that I might not have my mom with me during this holiday season.

Well, although my mother is still in bed, and although she still doesn't know who I am, she is doing so well, and so I thought I'd post a few photos of this Christmas season that I didn't know I would have.  (Plus at the bottom of this post, I kind of opened up my heart regarding what's going on in my life.... Thank you for caring so much about our family.)

On Thanksgiving, after Eric, our children, and I ate dinner at our own home, we drove into Long Beach to visit my sister and then headed over to Mom and Dad's house to help them decorate their tree.  (My dad had called me the week before to let me know the tree was all ready for us!)

When I saw the little tree on the patio outside my mom's room, I asked, "Where do you want me to set this up?"


In the 27 years my parents have lived in that house, it's always been in the living room.

"Well," my dad replied, thoughtfully. "I think it should go in here with Mother."

You see, the heart of the home has shifted to Mom's bedroom. We eat dinner in there with her, we sort through photo albums in there...and it was only fitting that we set up Christmas right where she could see it.



This is Cheryl, one of my mom's full-time caregivers.  This was her FIRST Christmas tree ever.  Isn't that fun that she got to decorate with us?


And the lighting isn't right on this photo, but I still love it.  (That's my mom and dad...)


Grace, Alia, me, and Cheryl--putting on the ornaments:


My dad always picks one of these paper angels to put on the top.  Page and I made them in kindergarten (same teacher, two years apart):


My mom is SO funny...she never wore headbands like this before, but now she is ready for a party at pretty much any moment.


Sweet Alia...



The finished tree:


Ethan and Spencer set up the nativity in the front room so there's still "Christmas" in there.  My dad told me that he and my mom didn't have a nativity when they were first married, but one day at church, the Sunday School teacher said that every home should have one.

The next day, my mom went out and bought this:

In the weeks since we put up the decorations, our Thursday visits have been beautiful. We eat together and sing Christmas carols. My mom hugs me and kisses me, and I help my dad with paperwork and little household tasks. Really, life is good. It's simple and precious. Such a gift, don't you think?

But there are hard things going on right now for me, as well. 

Tonight is good, so I think I can write about it without sounding like a downer, but a couple of nights ago, I was feeling really low. 

There are some big decisions I'm trying to make right now, and the demands on my time sometimes feel too heavy. (I won't go into detail because I know I'm not the only one who feels this way...)

But I had one of the sweetest experiences when I opened up my Bible to Jeremiah 32:27. It says this:  "Behold, I am the Lord...is there any thing too hard for me?"

When I read that verse, I heard my mom's voice in my head.  She loved that scripture, and she would quote it often:

"April, we don't need to worry about that. The Lord will take care of us. Is there anything too hard for Him?"

I wish you could have heard those words being said in her voice. The confidence, the faith, and the utter assurance that she knew what she was talking about was enough to totally quiet any concerns I might have been having.

And as I read those words the other night, that same peace came back.

I've been hearing from a lot of you lately, and I know that your lives are anything but easy. Some of you are going through struggles I can't even imagine, and I wish with all my heart that I could make things better for you. But because I am not able to come do your dishes or sweep your porch right now, I share these thoughts with the hope that they will bring you the same comfort they brought me.

I have no doubt that as we turn our hearts to the Lord and ask Him to show us our lives from His perspective, He lifts the burdens from our shoulders and helps us to clearly see that life is a gift.


Thank you so much for your friendship.  (And Merry Christmas!)

With love,
April 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

New Power of Moms Site is Live!!

Just a quick announcement in case anyone hasn't seen it yet...

Our brand new Power of Moms website has just gone live, and I couldn't be more excited.

Our designer, the wonderful Zach Swinehart*, went above and beyond to create this new mobile-friendly site, and Saren's husband, Jared, has been handling all of the tech/login details SO beautifully. (Getting everything on a website to work isn't as easy as it sounds!)

Add to all of that the effort of our board of moms (who are helping us iron out the inevitable kinks), and you now have a gathering place for deliberate mothers that is poised to strengthen the world.

Such a gift. I feel lucky to be a part of it.

So if you'd like to check it out, click here or on the image below for a little tour!

(And we would LOVE for you to share the website with your friends.  Thanks so much!)




*Need some design work done? I can't recommend Zach enough. Click here to visit his website.   :)

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Lord Let My Dad Live (and How that Changed Me)

A lot has been going on behind the scenes here that I will need to explain in future posts. Some of those things are beautiful and sweet, and some of them are really hard. (But isn't that the case for everyone?)

However, one experience keeps coming to the front of my mind, and I felt impressed to sit down today and record it.

A few weeks ago, while I was visiting and caring for my parents, my dad's heart stopped.

The first time, he fell flat on his back in the kitchen, and since we didn't know what had happened, and since he seemed pretty much fine (though a bit dazed), I had him rest in the front room and watch TV with Grace, Ethan, and Spencer while Alia and I got my mom changed for bed.

Then it happened again.

I heard my children scream from the front room, "Mom! Grandpa stopped breathing! Mom! Come help us!"

I sprinted across the front room, frantically trying to call 9-1-1 as I ripped off the gloves I'd been wearing, not sure what I was about to see or what was going to be required of me.

Alia pulled out her own phone and said, "I'll call 9-1-1. You take care of Grandpa."

So I threw down my phone and bee-lined to my dad.

He was staring straight forward. His body was rigid. There was no breathing. No response. Only a quick gasp or a jerk every couple of seconds, like his body was fighting to live.

In that moment, I had no idea what to do. I couldn't lift him out of the chair. I didn't know if this was something related to his diabetes or not. He hadn't had any chest pains or any problems earlier (other than that fall) but he'd been totally fine when I sent him to rest.

So I did what I have been taught to do my whole life.

I wrapped my arms around him, I closed my eyes, and with all the faith of my heart, I said, "Heavenly Father, please help us."

Within three second, my dad started breathing again. His body calmed, and he looked me in the eyes and began talking to me...totally unaware that anything had just happened.

"Dad," I replied as I hugged and kissed him, "We almost lost you. You weren't breathing or responding. The ambulance is on its way."

At that point, Alia handed me the phone, and the emergency operator guided me to take my dad into the living room and help him lie down on the floor.

Now the short story is that my dad received a pacemaker the next day--after a frightening night of flat-lining twice at the hospital.  Although he has had to go into the hospital a second time since then, he is gratefully still with us, a blessing for which I can't thank the Lord enough.

But what I need to record here is one of the most precious moments I have ever experienced.

It happened as I knelt by my dad's side while we waited for the paramedics. I didn't know if I was ever going to be with him again in this life.

I kissed his cheeks and his forehead and said, "I love you, Dad. I love you so much."

He kissed my cheek and replied, "I know you do. And I love you, too."

Such a simple moment, really. But it's one that put everything into perspective for me.

If I were to have lost my dad that night, I would have had zero regrets.

Because of my mom's Alzheimer's, I have been at their home practically every Thursday evening for years. I have been going through photo albums with him, we've had fun at the beach, we've eaten dinners together and laughed at funny memories. He's listened to each of the chapters of the book I'm writing for my mom.

In addition to all that, we have a lifetime of beautiful experiences together...vacations as a family, late-night poster-making for my student council campaigns, hours and hours when I got to snuggle next to him while he read the newspaper or watched TV at night.

We obviously want to make many more memories together, but when the time comes for us to part, I have a powerful feeling of peace--because we're ready.

This idea has gotten me thinking about all of my relationships.

If the situation had been different--if I had been waiting for the paramedics to come for my husband, one of my children, another member of my extended family, or a dear friend, have I lived my life and prioritized my relationships in such a way that I would feel that same peace?

One of the biggest lessons my dad taught me was this:

"If there is something that needs to change in your life, do it now. Don't wait until tomorrow or the new year. Make it happen today."

So I'm sharing a few changes I'm committed to making right now. (And I'd love for you to share yours in the comments.)

(1) I'm going to do a better job taking care of Eric. He gives me shoulder massages and takes me on dates and puts me down for naps. Although he says he's just fine and that he doesn't expect more from me, I want him to know--every single day--that he's my hero and my true love.

(2) When Spencer puts something on the "Wondering List," I'm actually going to do the research with him.  (We looked up tanks and machine guns on Saturday.)

(3) When Ethan tells me about his Lego designs and goes into detail about everything he loves in the Lego magazine, I'm really going to pay attention. These mean a lot to him, so they mean a lot to me. (I am learning a lot about Legos...)

(4) When I have the chance to spend time with Grace (who seems to miss me the most when she's at school), I am going to savor those moments and make sure she knows how much I adore her...even when I'm feeling tired or grumpy.

(5) When Alia asks me to help her with her book or wants to record a podcast with me, I will make it an appointment -- instead of always saying, "I'm too tired tonight."

(6) When I visit my mom and dad, I want to record as many details as I can...especially asking my dad to tell me more stories from his early years. My children and grandchildren need to know these amazing people who came before them, and what a gift it is that we have this time together right now.

Am I going to be perfect at all of this?

Probably not.

Well, definitely not.

But the more experiences I have, the more I know that being perfect isn't the point. It's this trying--this consistent work in the midst of the "stuff" of life when we get to take care of the people that we love.

Sending love to all of YOU today! Your friendship through this blog means more than you know.

April




Thursday, October 2, 2014

Mom's Birthday: Frozen Yogurt with a Special Twist

Oh, we had a fun Thursday night with my mom this week.

First, here's a section of the chapter I read to her, and then there's a fun story at the end.  :)

___________________________

One day early in my motherhood, when I had three preschoolers, my husband, Eric, could tell I needed a break. He arranged to take our children out for an afternoon and dropped me off for a special date with my mom (just the two of us!).

First stop was our favorite frozen yogurt store.

I was giddy with excitement. I was wearing real clothes. I’d put on makeup and done my hair, and just walking into a business establishment without a diaper bag felt like I was walking into a spa.

Mom and I placed our orders, and then when we sat down at our table to eat our yogurt, she said, “Now close your eyes for a minute.”

“What?” I asked—totally confused.

“Close your eyes. I have a surprise.”

So I closed my eyes and listened while my mom rustled around with a paper sack she’d brought with her and set some things on our table.

"What on earth is she doing?" I thought to myself.

Thirty seconds passed, and then a minute. Finally it was quiet, and she said, “Okay! You can open your eyes!”

There on the table were two crystal goblets and two silver spoons.  She’d transferred our yogurt from the paper cups into the goblets, and, with a big smile on her face, said, “Today I am eating yogurt with a queen.”

I wish I could accurately explain how I felt at that point.

I think I must have laughed and looked around to see if anyone in the store thought we looked ridiculous, but really, as we sat together with our goblets of yogurt, laughed about the funny things my children had been doing lately, and talked about our lives and our goals and our families, I thought, “There couldn’t be a more beautiful mother in the whole world.”

_____________________

Okay, so I wrote that part of my book from my bed on Sunday morning, while Gracie was snuggled up next to me--reading along and making helpful suggestions.

When I finished, I read the draft aloud to both of my girls (Alia had joined us), and we started talking about what we would do to celebrate my mom's birthday this week. (She turned 79!)

"I know!" Gracie exclaimed, "Let's give Grandma frozen yogurt in crystal goblets!"

There are certain ideas that, when you hear them, just feel perfect.

This was one of them.

All week we anticipated "that moment," when I would read her my story and we would bring in the goblets.

"Are you excited?" my children would ask.

"More than you know..." I would say.

To be honest, I didn't know if her memory would even allow her to connect the two events, but it didn't matter. I wanted to create that moment for my children. I wanted to emblazon that story into their memories so they would never forget their amazing heritage.

Once we arrived on Thursday with our bag of dinner ingredients and a whole set of goblets wrapped in dish towels, we rested for a bit, and then Gracie and I ran down the street to buy the yogurt. 

"You must be having a party!" the cashier said.

"We ARE!" I replied.  And then I told her ALL about it. See how excited I was?



Then Alia decorated Grandma's room with a birthday banner she made out of felt. (She put it behind my mom for the pictures and then moved it to the other wall so she could see it better.)


Aren't they so cute?

I ended up not getting ANY pictures of the yogurt and goblets because my video somehow got deleted, and I didn't take other photos because my hands were busy serving the treats and feeding my mom, but I think it's just as well.

I don't know if the photos could have captured the moment.

My children, my parents, and I sat together, quiet and happy in Mom's room, reliving her beautiful story from the past and then eating our yogurt out of goblets. 

I got to be the one to feed my mom, and with each little spoonful, I felt more and more grateful for this story I get to live.

Thank you for living it with me. It's comforting, really, to know you're here.

Happy birthday, Mom!


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